Zim’s long political turmoil forces youths to be refugees

HERBERT Janga (37) relocated to Malawi with his wife and three children in 2012 – to date, he and his family have not visited their relatives back home because they are undocumented.

BY MICHELLE CHIFAMBA

In a telephone interview Janga said his passport expired in 2014, while his wife’s travelling documents now attract a fine from immigration because she has overstayed in that country and can no longer pass through the border easily.

“We no longer have travelling documents to travel back home. If we decide to go back today, it will be difficult and very expensive. The children need new travelling documents because when we came they used Emergency Travelling Documents (ETDs), which expired after six months of being issued,” Janga said.

Despite being undocumented, Janga and his family seem to be living a happy life as he secured a job at a fast food joint, and his wife is a tailor, while their children attend a private school in Malawi’s capital, Blantyre.

“I solve one problem at a time,” Janga said. “I will worry about the travelling documents when the time comes. At the moment I do not require them and I intend to go back to Zimbabwe when the government has changed and the economy has settled.”

Back in Zimbabwe, Janga’s mother-in-law, who recently visited Malawi seems not unhappy with the couple’s living conditions.

“I think life in Zimbabwe is better than in Malawi. If I could have it my way I would ask them to come back. The poverty they escaped here in Zimbabwe seems much worse in Malawi,” she said.

According to reports from the United Nations Agency on Migration, nearly 33 000 000 youths across Africa join the search for employment in other countries.

In Zimbabwe, since 2004, the number of professional Zimbabweans, including the youth that crossed the country’s borders in search of better living conditions, has risen and the motivators for relocation to foreign countries are economic and political challenges as well as inequalities.

According to youth in the country’s opposition political parties, Zanu PF is benefitting from the problems it creates. The huge number of youths escaping the country seems to be working in favour of the ruling party to remain in power.


Zimbabwe National Students Association (Zinasu) said both educated and uneducated Zimbabweans have crossed the country’s borders in search of greener pastures and this seems to be working to the advantage of the ruling party as the country approaches the 2018 election.

“Zimbabwe has been undergoing years of gross economic mismanagement that has led to the demise of the economy. As a result, young people both educated and uneducated, have crossed borders to neighbouring countries in search of greener pastures. This seems to be working for the ruling party to remain in power because all those in the diaspora are not eligible to vote. The few remaining people are persuaded to support the ruling party through the patronage system,” Zinasu national spokesperson, Zivai Mhetu said.

“The few remaining youth in Zimbabwe are wallowing in poverty and that through desperation they are persuaded to support the ruling party, Zanu PF through a patronage system. Youth have been given residential stands and mining claims to vote for Zanu PF to remain in power.”

He said people living in the diaspora have been denied their voting rights and this affects the outcome of elections, as a huge number of youth are living outside the country.

“Opposition parties advocating for the diaspora vote must devise methods of ensuring that those youth living outside the country are eligible to vote. Measures such as sending transport to all neighbouring countries to ferry foreign-based youth to register to vote is the best the opposition can do,” Mhetu said.

MDC-T youth assembly, in a statement, said youth are failing to attain success because they have failed to defend their future by voting the ruling party out of power.

“Youth constitute the major voting population, but many have fled from the economic crisis while the few that remain are not registered to vote. It is time for us as youth and all Zimbabweans to define our own future by registering to vote,” MDC-T youth assembly said in a statement recently.

Analysts maintain that prospects of finding employment may be the significant reason to leave behind family, friends and family risking emotional and physical trauma during the process.

“Individual economic challenges such as poverty, unemployment, and homelessness, may not be the only factors that contribute to international relocation. Institutional and structural factors such as political instability may also serve as motivators of immigration to other countries,” Sydney Chisi, an independent political analyst, said.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in Harare, the exact number of Zimbabweans who have left the country in the past decade is very difficult to pin down.

“It is estimated that at least four million Zimbabweans are living and working abroad. However, the absence of reliable statistics has placed a strain on the organisation’s work to catalogue the number of Zimbabweans living outside the country,” read part of an IOM 2016 report.

The Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (ZimStat) estimates that this year alone between January and June, at least 3 000 migrants have crossed the border legally, while the number of undocumented immigrants is unknown.

The world commemorated International Youth Day on August 12 this year and the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, noted that Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over 830 million by 2050. It is, therefore, the duty of governments to prioritise empowerment and employment.

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